Volume 9 | Issue 1 | Year 2006

The life of many steel structures depends heavily on the quality of the welding products that Electrodos INFRA manufactures; these have propelled the company to a leading position not only in the Mexican marketplace, but has made it one of the largest welding products manufacturing plants in Latin America.

The company dates back to the early days of industrial development in Mexico, when in 1919, brothers Fernando and Alfonso Franco founded Industrias Franco (INFRA), with only six employees at a small shop in downtown Mexico City. These young entrepreneurs could only imagine that they would eventually become pioneers in the oxygen and welding products industry in Mexico. Electrodos Infra, as part of one of the most important industrial groups with over 185 distribution branches in Mexico, Grupo INFRA has a 778,000-square-foot facility including six manufacturing buildings that also house the administrative offices building in Tultitlan, Estado de Mexico.

Momentum eventually fueled the company to take a leading position in the gas, welding machinery and welding products segment under the name of INFRA Air Products Group. Ana Ertze, exports sales manager, relates that “initially, our company manufactured conventionally-made electrodes, but as the market became more demanding, we augmented our research and technical capabilities and added qualified technical personnel for the development of our own proprietary technology and specialized equipment to come up with newer, better welding products every time, searching for the best cost-effective solution for our customers.”

Ertze says that practically all types of industries that use steel and metal as base materials require welding products. However, each one of these might require tailor-made, specific solutions. To achieve this, the company seeks direct involvement in the customer’s operations with the purpose of acquiring first-hand knowledge of their needs, which in turn helps to improve its processes, formulas and equipment, but most important, the technical skills and education of its personnel. “Training is not overlooked; we have implemented a seminar program geared towards quality and production managers, supervisors, welders, and all those interested in improving their knowledge of the welding processes,” adds Ertze.

Beatriz Cardoso, chief of research and development, explains that Electrodos INFRA’s welding products are created through a simple yet demanding process and are available in various diameters and lengths, depending on the position, material thickness and requirements of the welded joint. They are made out of quarter-inch rod, which is primed, cut to size and then coated with a mixture of minerals, carbonates, agglutinants hydrated with water until a paste is obtained, commonly known as flux.

Once mixed, the flux and the rod are joined together through an extrusion machine, dried and packed for shipping.

Electrodos INFRA also produces solid-steel carbon wire offering diameters from 0.023 inches to 0.062 inches in different packaging. One of the main advantages is that its chemically coating process is a one-step and continuous process.

Current challenges
Ertze said that one of the greatest challenges the company is working to overcome is to remain competitive in spite of the Asian presence. “We only need to look at the steel industry damage caused by Asians through 2004, leaving the rest of the world without its own internal usage supply granted. Facing this situation during 2004 was not easy for us and for sure, it wasn’t for any other manufacturer,” Ertze says.

The progressive Asian presence in several markets is the shooting base for the company’s expansion towards a considerable increase of manufacturing capacity and product range.” “We have always pursued hi-tech equipment, such as Italian and Swedish that has allowed us to successfully compete with Asian manufacturers,” Ertze adds, “and although these are quite competitive in their prices, our own quality products and accurate-flexible deliveries have even driven some competitors to become loyal, repeat customers to our company.” In return, Ertze says that Electrodos Infra constantly improves quality and cost effectiveness. “To remain competitive in our current markets and conquer new ones, we have to keep in mind the market’s trends; embracing solid and tubular wires in our product variety, as an example,” he says.

After 45 years of successfully developing carbon steel electrodes, special alloy electrodes and wires, the company’s products now constitute an integral solution to all types of needs in welding. Mild steel, low hydrogen, stainless steel electrodes and wires for mig/mag processes constitute the company’s flagship products. Other types such as hardfacing, cast iron, cutting and beveling, aluminum and copper alloy electrodes, aside from silver and bronze fluxes, are also part of the array products, which constantly grows as the company integrates new technologies to its product line.

When Electrodos INFRA started exporting its products to several other countries across the Americas, the company had to refine its processes through even more stringent quality control measures. In the United States, for instance, its products are monitored and controlled by the American Bureau of Shipping, and by the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping in England, both prestigious certifiers of international quality standards. For Canada, they are certified under the Canadian Welding Bureau. In Latin America, the company has received approval from the Cuban vessel register, while in Mexico, Petroleos Mexicanos, PEMEX (Mexican National Petroleum Company), as well as the Comisión Federal de Electricidad, CFE (Federal Electricity Commission) have provided credentials to Electrodos INFRA as an approved vendor. Also, the company is ISO certified since 1996 and received ISO 9001:2000 certification in 2002.

It is through customer feedback, technical advice and technical services that the company strives to get as perfect an overview as possible of the customer’s needs. Direct attention from a team of welding specialists, timely solutions to welding application problems and training programs adapted to the customer’s needs bring a high degree of ease of mind, since requests for assistance are answered within 48 hours in Mexico, and 72 hours in any country across the Americas. The company’s technical staff is able to provide its expertise on-site to assure proper selection of electrodes for specific requirements, product application techniques or maintenance and manufacturing operations through welding and after-application special treatments.

The chemistry of welding
Aside from its products, Electrodos INFRA also offers its mechanical testing, chemical analysis and metallographic analysis laboratories for the metal mechanics industry. Supported by the Entidad Mexicana de Acreditamiento de Laboratorios de Prueba, EMA (Mexican Entity of Testing laboratories Accreditation), the company is capable of offering tension and Charpy impact testing, hardness tests, and complete testing packages for welding procedures and welder qualification. All tests are carried out in full compliance with ASTM, ASME and AWS specifications and codes.

Electrodos INFRA possesses specialized equipment for humidity tests, performed with atomic absorption spectrophotometers, X-Ray diffraction, visible UV spectrophotometer, and digital display induction furnaces. Other services the company offers consist of chemical analysis of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, mineral analysis, alloy identification, deposited metal analysis and crystalline structure materials identification through X-ray diffraction. Micro-structure analysis, non-metallic inclusions, and grain size determination are also part of the array of custom services.

But coalescence of metals is not all there is to the welding industry for Electrodos INFRA; the brazing of customer satisfaction with the company’s experience is undoubtedly a well-bonded structure that will last a lifetime.